Huddle Meetings that rock

The daily huddle meeting is a foundational element of the lean enterprise. It acts as the driver of daily management and assures that the team stays aligned. Unfortunately, there still seems to be a bit of mystery surrounding how to use this powerful tool effectively.

The benefits of a well-executed daily huddle meeting simply cannot be overstated. This simple 15-minute exercise can be an exponential time saver. Conversely, the consequence of not holding or not effectively executing these rapid sessions can be catastrophic. (Especially in smaller organizations or early in a Lean deployment). In my experience, lack of huddling or ineffective huddle meetings are usually a result of one or two different reasons.

 

  1. The leader simply does not understand the intent.
  2. The team is attempting to cover too much information.

 

To clarify some of the confusion regarding the daily huddle, here are some things you should know to create and drive effective huddle meetings for your team.

 

Purpose:

Lets start with the basics. The purpose of the huddle meeting is simple: Align the team on the next 24 hours of activity. This sounds easy. It’s not. Many people have a love/hate relationship with the huddle. If your team hates the huddle, you are likely doing it wrong.

 

Benefits:

I could write an entire article on the benefits of a well-executed huddle meeting. For the sake of time lets cover a high-level list.

  • Assure that everyone understands the expectation for the day.
  • Adjust priorities as required for the conditions at hand.
  • Guaranteed face time with key players.
  • Reduction of email traffic
  • Performance management and accountability.

 

Who should attend the huddle?

You want to assure that the team is limited to the key process personnel. This allows the group to focus on their activities and prevents people from getting distracted while listening to a part of the meeting that has nothing to do with them. Rule of thumb is 7 to 9 people.

In larger organizations where there are too many moving parts to cover everything with 9 people, then cascading the meeting will be required. Cascading huddle meetings leverage the visual management at the department or Value Stream level and input that information into a high-level huddle. The diagram below shows an example of how this works in a manufacturing company.

In a cascading huddle model, the area leader (or their designate) walks their Gemba in advance of the leadership huddle and gathers the necessary information from their performance management board(s). They then take this information into the leadership huddle. This person is responsible for carrying the message from the leadership huddle back to their respective department and leading a short huddle in their area.

Using this approach, each department or value stream is represented in the daily management huddle without pulling excess resources out of the value-added work. Although this requires the department representative to attend two huddles, you will find that both meetings become short, concise, and effective, when using this approach. You can reduce the impact of the two-meeting-a-day dilemma by exchanging who represents the department on a rotating basis. The key to this approach is having effective performance management boards at the value stream level. (That topic is addressed in another post.)

 

What information gets reported in the huddle meeting?

The answer to this question is dependent on your organization, but here are some basics.

  • What has been done since the last meeting?
  • Did anything carry over that needs to be addressed today?
  • What is the status of my KPI’s
  • What will be done before our next meeting?
  • What are the barriers that I need help with to accomplish my plan for the day?

Nothing more, nothing less. Avoid lengthy discussions. If discussion is needed, set up a separate meeting.

 

Where should the meeting be held?

Short answer, in the Gemba. Meeting where that actual work is taking place brings a whole host of benefits with it. This will allow the team to see firsthand what is going on in the department, as well as allows personnel in the department to hear (see) the plan for the day thus creating further alignment. In a manufacturing environment this is especially important. If the location on the shop floor is too noisy to conduct a meeting, consider add an inexpensive PA system. Not only will this allow people to be heard over the background noise, but it also prevents people from talking over each other (the only people who are speaking are the ones hold a microphone).

Helpful Hint – Make sure that the unit has two microphones. This assures that two-way communication can be achieved as well as gives a back-up if one of the mics goes down.

 

Who leads the meeting?

Just like in a football huddle, the quarterback is fundamental. The huddle leader must be able to “call the play” for the day, but also be able to “call an audible” if necessary. The leader of the huddle should be a person with the authority to realign priorities, pull people back to topic, and drive overall accountability. If you are using a cascade model, the lower level huddle meeting is run by the dept. manager (or their designate), the roll-up meeting is the leader at the site (or their designate). Regardless, the meeting must be led by a person with the authority to make things happen and drive action.

 

Here are a few tips to assure that your meetings rock!

  • Keep is short. Keeping the meeting down to around 15 minutes of a vital part of assuring that the meeting stays fresh, keeps everybody engaged, and gets people back to value added work as soon as possible. General rule of thumb is 5 to 15 minutes. Keeping this cadence is vital, and the owner of the meeting must assure that the process keeps moving. If there is a topic that needs more discussion, then assign a person to lead the discussion after the huddle. Write it down as an action item and make sure they follow up. I have seen teams that use a time limit on how long each person can speak. I have also seen teams make each speaker hold a 10-lb. medicine ball while they are talking, or make the huddle meeting at 11:45 so it ending the meeting means I can go to lunch. Whatever technique you choose, make it short and concise.
  • Meet face to face. The huddle meeting should be done in person. It is important to read the facial expressions of your team. Confusion, frustration, and anxiousness are all key emotions that tell you a lot about team alignment. It is hard to read these effectively if your meeting on the phone. If you can’t be there, send your designate and get an update from them later. Even remote teams should do huddle meetings. These days video conferencing makes face to face contact possible for everybody.
  • Ritualize it! The huddle meeting must become part of the daily activity. There should be start and end times established and they should be adhered to as much as possible. If your operation runs 7 days a week, the huddle meeting needs to occur all 7 days. Just because there is a different leadership team on the weekends doesn’t mean that communication isn’t needed.
  • Use Visual control. At a minimum you should have the daily KPI’s on display and an action item tracker. The expectation should be that everyone comes to the meeting prepared to speak to their specific metrics and actions. Failure to arrive prepared should have consequence. Using leader standard work will go a long way to help (this will also reinforce the use of LSW).
  • Write it down. The action tracker should be a manual process. I personally prefer a white board configured for this purpose. If an action is assigned, it should be written down manually where it can be seen by all. Later in the day when the action is complete, the expectation should be that the assignee physically write the result down in a space provided. These days it is very common to want to move to an electronic display. Resist the temptation. The act of physical touching the action tracker has a powerful physiological effect on the user. There have been a host of studies that indicate that when you physically write the information on the board, the information is stored in a different part of your brain. This allows quicker access and longer retention. This is not just a good idea, it’s human cognitive processing.
  • Attendance is mandatory. For everyone. Each department needs to be represented in ever session. If the department representative is not available there should be a back-up already assigned, trained, and prepared to represent their department. No exceptions should be tolerated.
  • Stand up. During the meeting the participant should be required to stand. Not only will this reduce the temptation to go longer than 15 minutes, it also helps the team stay focused an engaged.
  • Leave your phone in your pocket (with the ringer off). Even the busiest professional can give up bonding with their smart phone for 15 minutes.
  • Standardize the process. The meeting should be structured using a standard process. Again, Leader Standard Work will go a long way here. When the process is standardized it helps keep the meeting short and concise. It also allows for easier training of back-ups. All attendees (especially visitors) should understand the standard process before the meeting starts.
  • Plan for the day only. The whole purpose is to align on the plan for the next 24 hrs. Try to avoid discussions that extend beyond that time frame.
  • Avoid problem solving. This is not intended to be a problem-solving meeting. If there is problem solving to be done, take it down as an action, assign a leader, and move on. The leader should be accountable to update the action tracker when the discussion is complete.
  • Review for effectiveness. On a regular basis you should ask the team to provide input as to the effectiveness of the meeting format. Make changes as necessary. I would recommend that you review the process at least once per month in the beginning, and decrease as you gain more maturity with the process. Every organization is different so it may take a couple of reviews to get it dialed in to your team. The important part is to make sure the meeting takes place.

 

Using these tips you can create a huddle meeting that will engage even the grumpiest detractor. You will find in a short time that your alignment and communication improves significantly. You will also find that accountability, and standardization improves.

 

I would love to know your thoughts and ideas. Please leave a comment and let me know what works for your team.

 

Happy huddling.

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